Skip to main content

tv   Jefferson Morley Snow- Storm in August  CSPAN  September 20, 2015 8:00am-8:56am EDT

8:00 am
[captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2015] >> thank you for that nice introduction. and thanks for hosting this event. i suggested this to ethan back in the winter, and they were than enthusiast tick for having me. this was always my destination and i'm very glad i landed here. whenever i come back, i have this feeling about what a special place this is. i think there's probably a few
8:01 am
people here who will at least remember the place if not agree with me, and so it's always nice to be back with old friends. i really date myself here, i even attended an advanced placement class at the old west high school, which was right down here and you have to be really old to remember when west high school was here. people have asked me a lot, why did you write this book? it's so long ago and so obscure. and i usually say because it's just a great story. what happened, the events themselves are so amazing. and as a writer, as a fiction writer i would never dare to make them up the kind of plots that this book has. and when i realized that they had all happened i thought that was really terrific. for a long time when people
8:02 am
say why, i say because it was such a great story. when i got into the book i realized there was when people say why, i say because it was such a great story. when i got into the book i realized there was more to it than that and the back had an even more profound message. and that was that this book takes plation between the revolutionary war period, the founding, the founding of the country in the late 18th century and the civil war. which are the two great periods in american history that get written a lot about by historians. the period in between, you know, kind of ignored. and what i realized is pretty much everything you know about that period and everything that you've been taught about that period is flat wrong. is completely wrong. and so i realized that part of this book is to tell people that, that everything you thought you understood about this time is completely wrong. so if you think of washington in 1835, 25 years before the civil war, you know, what would
8:03 am
you think? you would think, well, slavery well entrenched, the black people were mizzral, the whites were cruel an indifferent. and that's actually not true at all. and washington, had about city. 12,000 were black. the majority of the black people in washington in 1830 were free, not slaves out of the 12,000 black people slightly more than half were free. some were prosperous and others were getting there fast. there was a man named lynch wormly who city. 12,000 livery owned a big stable about two blocks from the white house and he served taxi to the city's trade. he was a free black man from madigascar. there were two brothers, thomas and isaac kerry. they owned a couple of barber shops on pennsylvania avenue.
8:04 am
they came from a free black family from virginia, they had been free from generations. one of the black families who owned slaves themselves. the kerry brothers would a free madigascar. there were two brothers, thomas and also anti-slavery publicications on the sly, on the side. and the hero of the book, beverly snow, was -- ran the city's finest restaurant called the eep curian eating house. he's kind of the hero. i think of him as a president obama slightly ahead of his ime, an intelligent mixed race man served the washington elite what they want only to face a tremendous backlash. i think if you read the book you'll see some parallels to our own time there. the point is that in this book, far from slavery being dominant in washington, d.c. and all oppressive force, slavery's actually receding and the forces of liberty served the wa
8:05 am
what they want only to face a tremendous backlash. i think if you read the book anti-slaveryme are growing. that's really what part of this book is about. the second thing you probably think is you probably think the civil war began in april 1861 th the gunfire at fort sumpter. that's when the shooting of the civil war began but part of the argument is that the civil war began 30 yeerings before that. it is in this period that the anti-slavery movement first comes to washington and the direct ideological conflict that leads to the civil war, the conflict between the people who are for slavery and the people who are against it, it actually starts in this time in washington. that's not something that you get that's really what part of taug books, but you'll see from this story that that is actually the case and that's what happened. so it's this band of people, the kerry brothers, lynch wormly, beverly snow, who
8:06 am
actually are the ones who really start the fight against slavery that leads to the civil war and the great expansion of american freedom that that brought. they had this little group of black entrepreneurs had a white frnd, a man named ben lundry, an editor, traveled around the country, kind of like a familiar faith for me. and he had an anti-slavery newspaper called the genius of universal emancipation. he would travel around. most of the newspapers of the day really avoid it had slavery issue and didn't really -- they'd report on the politics but didn't want to get into it. he reported there was a killing this man was beat, here's how these slaves escaped. here's how the churches have caved in. he really did real investigative reporting about slavery quite unprecedented at
8:07 am
the time. and as anti-slavery sentiment, as this movement starts to grow in washington, he has enough money to hire a new assistant and he hires a promising young man from boston named william lloyd garrison and he teaches him how to be a journalist and report about slavery. and in a great irony, he would go on to die in obscurity and william lloyd garrison would become one of the most influential journalists of the century he's a character in this book, too. another thing you probably think is the only important thing that francis scot key did is write the lyrics to the banner.angled wrong again. after he wrote the lyrics, he went on to a long and very interesting career in politics, which is completely unknown to most people. france sess scot key really was
8:08 am
kind of a modern character. after he became famous for writing the stars spangled banner he did what people in washington usually do, he parlayed his fame into a luke rative law practice and then into political connections and then into a job. that was the km nation of his political career in 18 33 when he was appointed to be the district attorney for the city of washington. what he did in that time was ba. wrong i wouldn't say as significant as writing the stars spangled banner which was obviously an enduring fete, but it was very important. unknown fact about frances scot key is that his best friend and brother in-law was a man named roger tawny and he was like key very politically ambitious and with key's help ascended to
8:09 am
jobs in the administration of andrew jackson. first key helped tawny become the u.s. attorney general then the secretary of the treasury and then in 1836 the chief justice of the supreme court. roger tawny went on to write the dread scot decision which effectively legalized slavery and hastend the coming of the civil war. so thrp inseparable political figures in this period and influential and important in a way that has been totally forgotten. in washington there's a key bridge which crosses the is a c river and right by park where key used to live. and in the park there's lots of exhibits devoted to him. there's one that says key was active in anti-slavery causes. and this is flat wrong. it's completely wrong. it would be much more accurate to say that key was active in suppressing anti-slavery causes. part of the point is to remind
8:10 am
people of all the thing that is we really don't want to remember about our own history. so this is a book about the real frances scot key. but i don't want to give the wrong impression. this book is not a book out to score points. it's mostly out to tell this amazing story of the events of 1836, on in 1835 and which begin on the night of august 4, 1835, 177 years ago. when begin on the night of august 4, 1835, 177 years ago. when a young man, a servant, to wrong impression. this book is not a book out to score points. it's mostly a african american man stumbles into the bedroom of his mistress of the woman who owns him ana maria thornton in the middle of the night carrying an axe. and mrs. thornton is sleeping in the room with her servant who is arthur's mother, the mother of the boy who has just stumbled into the room. so the two women wake up, scream, arthur's mother shoes
8:11 am
him out the door, slams the door. arthur's outside yelling and shouting that he wants to be free that he is going to be free. the neighbors gather. and artsdz runs away. and the word begins to pred mrs. thornton has been attacked in her bedroom by a slave with an axe. this report comes at a very ense time in washington. this burgeoning anti-slavery movement is distributing anti-slavery publicications to everybody african in town. for the first time the anti-slavery movement is really impressing upon people the reality of slavery with these kind of written reports very detailed about what is really involved and the brutality of slavery. and so among the blacks and the abolitionist whites tht overdue. but among a lot of whites they fear that this is the first shot in a slave rebelion. and that arthur was part of a slave rebelion in attacking
8:12 am
mrs. thornton. and so when arthur turns himself in a few days later and says i have no memory of what happened, he is wisked off to jail, and a mob converges on the jail in downtown washington in judiciary square and tries to -- seeking to lynch arthur, demanding that he be turned over so that he can be hung on the spot. frances scott key comes to the defense at the jail and is trying to hold back the crowd. he is about to become overrun troops tunately the come in, march down pennsylvania avenue, surround the jail, and push the crowd back so that arthur will not be lynched. so order is only temporarily restored though, because the frustrated that they
8:13 am
cannot get their hands on arthur, decide to turn their fury on every other free black person in town. so the mobs begin to split up and attack the people any black people who have property, the black churches, the black schools, the black who houses, any place where the black people gathered, the mobs were going to destroy it, including, first and foremost, beverly snow's arthur, decide to turn their fury on every other free black person in town. so the mobs begin to restaurant heart of town at the corner of sixth and pennsylvania. it is frected by politicians, senators, congressmen, the finest of high society. beverly snow is a well known and respected character. and the mob in its fear of this anti-slavery movement and the fear of a slave insurrecks and fear of black success, attacks snow. snow had friends. he knew there was trouble coming and he manages to escape and get away. but the mob trashes his restaurant, drink all his liquor, pours it out and goes on this rampage and destroys the city. and it's quite a shocking
8:14 am
event. it's totally forgotten in the history of washington. when i ask people about this -- one reason i decided to write the book i asked people if they ever heard of the riot of 1835 in washington and i never met anybody who had. it's completely forgotten but when you read the newspapers th symbol in washington of black success. the of the day you realize what a shocking event it was. it was the worst thing that happened in washington since the british had invaded 20 years before in 1814 and they came in and destroyed the white house and the library of congress and all this. this was comparable damage but had not been inflicted by a foreign army. it had been inflicted by americans themselves. and there was a lot of shame and remorse about how could this happen. a lot of recriminations. so frances scott key is determined to pursu the agenda of the jackson administration, which is to make sure that the slave order is safe in washington. that the slave owners are safe with their property, that they're not going to -- their
8:15 am
slaves are not going to run away. and so he, as district attorney, has the job of establishing law and order. and so he does this in a couple of ways. the first thing that he does is arthur bowen on trial for the attempted murder of mrs. thorn. he also arrested and puts on trial a white abolitionist, an anti-slavery man from new york, a doctor named ruben crandle who had been bringing a trunkload of anti-slavery publicications to washington. and he wanted to send a message not just to the anti-slavery forces in washington but to everywhere in the country, your activities will not be tolerated at all. so that, the book tells the story of how the riot comes to then the story of the criminal trials that follow. so when arthur bowen goes on trial in 1835, key is very eager to win a conviction. by this time mrs. thornlten has
8:16 am
come forward and come to the defense of her alleged assailant. and she says in the trial, arthur never lifted the axe. that she had never believed that he intended to hurt her. that she felt safe in his presence. that he was just drunk and that she wanted the whole thing to go away. well, key was implaqueable. and he didn't listen to this. he managed to get other people to override her testimony. so arthur bowen is convicted and there's only one pub yirnment for that which is the death penalty, capital punishment. so arthur bowen goes on to death row. nd in january of 1836 is sentenced to die in about a month. so with the clock ticking mrs. thornton does something even more unbelievable. it was amazing enough that she had testified on arthur's
8:17 am
behalf in the criminal trial. but now she goes out and starts recruiting her friends in high society of washington, and she was very prominent with many prominent friends, easy access to the leadership of the country. she went to vice president van buren and said, use your good offices with the president, with president jackson. tell him that he should pardon arthur. his mother is very good. she says, you know, that the execution would be worse than the crime. and that she couldn't that arthur would be excuted. key and jackson are unmoved. so the clock keeps ticking down. and i'm going to read you a little part of the book about what happened in february of 1836. in his cell, arthur bowen
8:18 am
searched for a way to quell the fear of death. he hoped for a pardon from the president but he had to be ready if it did not happen. he had to admit the truth of what john cook had said all along. yes, he had a right to be free, and yes liquor would destroy that freedom. arthur's protestations that he never intended to harm mrs. thornton, failed to convince even himself. of course he had no intention. the drink gave him that intention, unleashed the sinner win. john cook was a school teacher who had kind of advised arthur about ways to get his freedom but he was also a testimony prance man and he always told the young slave boys if you wanted to be free, you had to two two things, learned to read and write, and stop drinking. arthur had condemned himself and for that he had to take responsibility. he decided to write a poem about this feeling of repentance. with pen and paper in hand he sat in the dim light of his jail cell thinking about his friends from the race track in
8:19 am
president's square, like william thornton he had some talent for writing. fair well, fair well, my young friends, dear. oh view my dreadful state. each flying moment brings me near unto my awful state. he made a curious reference to his family. brought up i was by parents nice whose commands i would not obey but plunged ahead foremost into vice and into temptations dreadful way. he admitted his folly. nothing did i ever drink but liquor very strong, alas i never used to think that i was doing wrong. to me was read the awful sentence, oh dreadful in my ears it rang. they gave me time for my re pentance and then i must be hanged. good-bye good-bye my friends so dear. keep you all.ty >> copy of the poems circulated. the big newspaper in washington published a copy.
8:20 am
the editor of the metropolitan which was the newspaper in georgetown pronounced it very credible. everyone in washington seemed to know that mrs. thornton's personal petition for clemsy to arthur had been presented to president jackson. it asked him to exercise that mercy which is in his power alone. the people awaited jackson's response, said the georgetown metropolitan with the deepest anxiety. i'm going to lee it there. -- leave it there. you have to buy the book to find out what happens next. so i want to close with one note just to bring this story back to the pent. when the book was reviewed in the "washington post," the reviewer took issue with an argument that i make in the book, which is that as i spent more and more time writing the book i realized that there was more and more similarity between the politics of the
8:21 am
1830s and our politics today. red said that really the blue politics that we see red states conservative the blue states liberal. if you look it resonates in this period. and i disagree quite strongly with that reviewer's contention. he said readers may find the element of the book jarring beginning with the assertion that pro slavery and anti-slavery forces in the 1830s resemble today's red conservative and blue liberal. this is unhelpful at best misleading conservative the blue states liberal. if you look it resonates in this period. and i disagree quite strongly with at worst. totally disagree. i think that the similarities are quite clear. and as i point out in the book they really revolve around the timeless issues of american politics. and it's no surprise that they are the same. then, as now, americans argue about what are property rights. what kind of property rights
8:22 am
does any individual have. in the 1830s, that argument revolved around slavery. did people have the right to own property in people. and the red forces, which are traditionally the force that favor of more property rights, max mall property rights, were in favor of the max mall property rights embodied in slavery and the liberal force which is are traditionally have more restricted view of property there's no such totally people. likewise in the debates about citizenship, part of the debate about slavery was a debate about citizenship. did the blacks have a right to be citizens. very similar to today's debates about illegal immigration. do they desoy the right to be citizens. then as now the conservatives took the restrictive position, no, american citizenship is reserved for a smaller group, for native born americans. then as now citizenship, part of the debate about slavery was a debate
8:23 am
about citizenship. did the blacks have a right to be citizens. very the liberals took a more expansive view that citizenship was open to a greater number of people. also with free speech, when frances scott key is prosecuting the anti-slavery it's a classy free speech argument of the type we have today. he said no we have to restrict free speech rights to protect our safety. if we allow them to say it, then we'll have slave rebelions and we'll be all insecure. so we need to restrict free speech rights. and that's the same argument that is conservatives make today and liberals take the same position then as they do now. which is no free speech rights should be max mall and we should worry less about safety and more about preserving free speech rights. so that is a very strong theme that runs throughout the book. and some people disagree with it. read it for yourself and decide for yourself. so with that, i think i am going to stop and maybe just answer any question that is people have about the book or
8:24 am
what i've said so far. >> where did you first come across this piece of history? and how long did you nurture it before you decided to write a book? >> i first heard about this in about 1998. i was a reporter at the "washington post." i was working on a story about a neighborhood historic preservation dispute which got me to read some history about the city of washington. and that's when i first heard that there had been a race riot in 185 and i heard that francis scott key had been the district attorney. i went around the post news room and i asked people, did you ever know about this race riot? has anybody ever written about this? nobody had written or knew about it. i knew it was a story then. so i wrote a piece for the sunday magazine for the "washington post" in 2005. but i always thought it was such a great story that if i ever had a chance i would write
8:25 am
a whole book. so i had it in the back of my mind. in 2009 i got fired from a job. i said no job, you always the book, so e write the book and have a good time. so even after i wrote the article in 2005, i always thought i will write a book about this some day. and i have continued to readthe write the in the period and do more research. so a long time. then when i got the contract that was three years ago. so it took about two years to esearch and finish the book. >> you mentioned william lloyd garrison. wendy, i believe. >> yes. >> and he was alive at this particular incident. was he in washington, you said? >> well, so i nurtrd it for gar did nobody had ever done in merge journalism before. they would go out and write about specific slave traders
8:26 am
and they would name names. nobody did this before. lundy started doing this and he taught garrison to do it. so originally they were publishing in baltimore, which s a bigger slave trading town. they wrote articles about different slave traders. one saying this man was a beast because he sold off children broken up families. both of them. that's what they wrote about. in both cases the slave traders way laid them after their articles appeared, beat the hell out of them. and when lundy filed charges in his case the judge said, well, you desoid it and dismissed the charges and diss missed the case. in garrison's case, after slave garrison up, the trader also charged him with libel. and so garrison was about to go on trial in baltimore in slave and was -- knew that he was not going to get a fair trial. so he skipped town. so he left in 18 33 and he went
8:27 am
back to boston. that's when he found it had liberator, which became the great anti-slavery publicication in the united states. and lundy had to leave town as well. ey charged him in 18 33 with -- lundy wrote an article about a story that was well known in washington at the time, which is a black woman was walking across the bridge over the potomac and a constable charted chasing her and all the black people in washington knew what that meant. the constable supplemented their income by capturing free blacks and selling them into slavery. so she ran away, she if he will off the bridge, fell in the potomac and droun. they got her body out and buried her. nobody did anything. so lundy wrote an article. look, here's what happened here's the name of the constable. and if the district attorney isn't going to do anything then congress should do something about it. so key hit the roof.
8:28 am
he was furious. and so he immediately charged lundy with libel. and went on and charged him his printer, another white man who had helped him write the copies. key was trying to run the anti-slavery out of the cabinet. they wanted to get rid of the forces in washington. so lundy did the same thing as garrison. he was facing like a $1,000 fine which would be like, $100,000 in today's lundy. so lundy collected one last friends and took off and friends and took off and went to philadelphia. so the anti-slavery movement was very embattled throughout this time. kind of drive these people out and suppress them. >> was there at this time what you would call main stream press that was covering this
8:29 am
hole thing including the abolitionist papers? >> no. >> how -- >> there were a lot of papers at the time. there were three daily newspapers in washington at the time. reflecting three different political tendencies. and there was a weekly newspaper. and then there was a weekly newspaper in georgetown, which was a separate -- georgetown is now part of washington, d.c. but then it was a separate municipality. so there were a lot of newspapers. but these were newspapers that were aligned with political factions in the government. and so they would talk about -- they would write about slavery as the politics of slavery were playing out in congress. somebody presented a petition for the abolitionist slavery in the district of columbia. they would write a story about that. but about the experience of slavery or the abuses of slavery, they would never -- they would never write about. >> mission, was what about the race riots
8:30 am
and the -- >> oh. >> the trial. the sentence and all that. >> the race riot was very well covered because it was very shocking. nobody expect that had to happen and there was a lot of recriminations and debate. and who was responsible kind of been the white working men -- the riot was attributed in the newspapers to what were called mechanics. and a mechanic was -- a mechanic was any kind of working man. it wasn't like our conception of an auto mechanic. it was any manual worker. well, the mechanics got together -- at least some of them -- and said how dare you say that we did this. we didn't do that. so there were lots of what abou and recriminations. nd that was covered. but like what happened to beverly snow, nobody ever wrote about that but you could tell in reading the newspapers i saw , snow took out advertisements all the time. that was the chief way i figured out who he was.
8:31 am
because his ads were very witty. they changed all the time. and he really disclosed a lot of his personality in there. but when push came to shove, nobody -- no white authorities wanted to be seen in the position of defending the free blacks. and so that was why the public authority kind of collapsed because nobody wanted to be seen as doing that. and the newspapers were part of that. they really didn't want to touch the issue. it was a little too exclosive for them. >> and mrs. thornton's campaign? >> mrs. thornton's campaign? that was the thing they couldn't ignore mrs. thornton. mrs. thornton was very prominent. her husband mr. thornton had designed the capitol, was a close friends of washington's, everyson's. she was a leading lady in
8:32 am
society. so while they wouldn't write about everything she was doing directly, you could tell the word had gotten around that mrs. thornton was trying to help arthur. and so that was kind of -- you could kind of see that. nobody ever wrote an article about that but you heard that throughout the press coverage of the time. >> a couple questions. you have talked a lot about the different parallels between then and now. and i guess i would be interested just more frontally on race than in now and what parallels you might see. you're talking about then and now. it's kind of something like we're condemned to repeat history. is that your conclusion? or is there something we can learn? >> i think, yes, the politics of race are central. and when i talk about those
8:33 am
principles, you know, that we debate and kind of red-blue, liberal-conservative and now. it's kind of something like we're condemned to repeat history. is that your conclusion? or division, you know, race runs through those. and that's a big part of it. one thing that's remarkable about this story, and i remember on inauguration day when president obama is coming up pennsylvania avenue and he gets out and he starts walking down the street and i'm watching the tv, oh, my god, that's snow's corner. that was where beverly snow had his restaurant. and i realized. and nobody noted. not even barack obama himself. this is like a quintessential balm story and nobody knows -- obama story and nobody knows it. this doesn't directly answers your question. but this idea of -- black success is written out of history. it's sort of religiously forgotten. and that's the -- that's my only explanation for why this story is not known. why nobody knows the story of
8:34 am
beverly snow or the riot of 135. are we condemned to repeat it? well, i think that the obama experience tells you that these continuities run very deep. and the backlash against obama is very akin to the backlash of beverly snow. i don't see any other way to look at it. i mean, obama's the president. he's not running a restaurant so i think the country is in better shape. but the underlying dynamics are still there. >> beyond is the scope of the book. but was there any sort of rganized or localized response from the black community itself in washington at the time? was it basically everybody running and hiding? >> there was.
8:35 am
isaac harry, the barber, beverly's best friend, had a barber shop next to the restaurant, filed a law suit because there was a crackdown on black businesses after this happened. per versely, the white authorities -- the response of the white riot was to crack down on black business and to deny blacks the right to own licenses. in his case he was selling perfume in his barber shop and he wanted to keep his license to sell perfume. and he won that case. but the riot was very discouraging for washington. and a lot of the most able and successful blacks left and went to toronto. and beverly snow and william walker, who is his business parter, another free blackman, wound up in toronto. the kerry brothers, thomas and isaac, wound up in toronto. so it was kind of an exodus because they had really reached the limits of what was possible
8:36 am
that they weren't going to be allowed to go any farther. o they moved on. >> say something about the research. your frustrations your triumphs. knew -- like your question, that i was going this book. because the sources were so interesting. and there were so many good sources. probably the first or the first and foremost was the ana thornton by the time this story takes place is 55 years old. she has been keeping a diary of her life for close to 40 years. and pretty much wrote down every day, you know, five days a week, six days a week what happened in her life. she wasn't -- this is not an emotional diary. she was not a confessional or expressive type of person but she just said what happened in her life. mr. adams, john quincy adams. over.ams came
8:37 am
we played chess. i read -- she read mary shelly frankenstein and she thought that was very morbid. she went to the market and she paid 12 cents for a dozen eggs. she wrote down everything that she -- all of her purchases. so for recreating daily life this was an extraordinary source and it made me realize that i was going to be able to recreate daily life in a very intimate realistic way. i didn't want to write a book about congress and politicians. i wanted to write a book about the way people lived in washington. this became kind of a mission of mine as i got into this research was to write a book that was really about living in washington and not about washington politics. the daily newspapers were an abundant source of information just because there were so many these and you had this becamed
8:38 am
different tendencies so they would look at things differently. and you could get a lot of information that way. and then i spent a lot of time in the national archives and differently. and you could get a lot of information that way. and then i spent a lot of time in the national archives and i found the docket book of the court for the circuit court at the time. so you could find out who was breaking the law and how they were breaking the law, who was suing each other, how did business deals go bad, you could really get a real sense of the texture of daily life. and then finally the last thing was the property tax records, which were also in these big bound volumes. and there i could see beverly snow getting richer by the year. when he comes to town he has nothing. after first year he's got $100, the second year he's got 200, the third year slightly he's go so if you're making $300 at the time you're starting to move into the middle class. so you can trademark cackters that way. so that was another way i really learned a lot about the characters thash in this book. and then there was frances scott key himself who everybody
8:39 am
knows his name and yet there hasn't been a biography of him written since 1939. and so there was a lot about frances scott key that was just lying around and roger taunyifment and when i was i found in search the court records many indictments, hand signed, f.s. key. in my hands i had a hundred autographs of frances scott key. so that was a thing. he thing that i think i'm most proud of is figuring out who beverly snow was through his advertisements. because he left no records, he left no diary or letters. wherever he went, he seemed to attract attention because people always had anecdotes about him. but i really didn't know that much about him until -- and i'd seen some of the ads and thought that was interesting. i thought no you need to go back and see every single
8:40 am
newspaper and get who beverly snow was through his advertisements. because he left no records, he left no diary or every single because that's where he will have expressed himself. they're really funny and you get a sense of the man. one was health made cheap and he was selling the idea of health food in the 1830s. this food is not only good but it's good for you. beverly snow was a great in the true washington tradition he was a master of self-promotion. he was great at it. a self-invented american. and i think that's really the thing that i liked the most about this book is that this person who nobody knew existed actually comes to life and you great and a unusual person he was. and there he is on the pages of the book. >> did you combile the book all at once, absorb all information and then compile the book? or as you went and then revise it. were you overwhelmed at times with all this reading and with information or did you pace yourself? >> well, i did it because t in .
8:41 am
i had written the articles, the magazine articles so i had expressed it. but when i started to write the book i decided i would not start writing right away and i spent about nine months just doing research. and then just the idea was just get everything in place and don't try and start too early. then once i had that in place, i wasn't overwhelmed. i mean, it took a while. there were three drafts of this book, three full different versions of it. so it took a while to kind of get it under control and figure out what was most important and what could be cut out. and one version was like 700 pages long. and that was later by the end it was probably 300 manu script pages long. so a lot got left out, which you're very lucky because it wasn't that interesting. so, but yeah. it took a while to get the material under control, for sure. >> did you use a filing system or did you use that geological stratification system that your
8:42 am
father used? i made a file as and i had a separate file folder for the key period of the book, which is 1835 and 1836 where i had a folder for every day of the year. and every newspaper article i would put it into -- i would put it into that. so then when the time came and writing about august writing a 1835, i could just pull out a week and i would have all the newspaper articles, all of my notes in a row. and ready to tell the story like that. i have a horror of a blank page as a writer you never want to sit down and look at a blank page. then you go, oh, my god. you don't know where to begin, you don't know what to do. you always want to have good notes in front of you. so what you're doing is just kind of editting the notes and turning the notes into prose. so you're never looking at a blank page. that's how i could get going on
8:43 am
it. >> so did you do this by hard copy or on your computer? >> a little bit of both. i mean, i like having paper copies. when i started i -- and was reading the newspapers at the library of congress you could only make photo copies of them. later on they had this cool machine where you could make pdfs right off the newspaper. so i had at some points -- i a parallel, two systems. it was kind of inefficient but that was the only way to do it. and then there were things that i had found in letters and things like that that i would make copies of but never turned them into things to go into the computer. so i'm half in the digital world but stiff half in the paper world.
8:44 am
of the city of washington. you mentioned 1835, 30,000 people. >> right. >> 12,000 are african americans. >> right. >> of the 12,000, how many are free? >> 6,000 plus. a majority by like 50. >> so there's an exodus after this event. what changes within washington? >> actually, that trend continues and the free black population continues to grow. in fact, by the beginning of the civil war, free black people outnumber slaves in four to one.ke so in the next 20 years, because you have to understand if you were a black person in virginia and you got your freedom, you had to leave the state within a year by law. or you could be sold back into slavery. and so those people once they to go to boston or new york
8:45 am
even though there was no slavely. but first of all philadelphia was a four or five day ride. bo even though there was no slavely. but first of all philadelphia was a four or five day ride. at best. and then it's an alien culture. it's not a southern culture. so the blacks once they got went to the district and they flocked to the district. there, opportunity. slavery was legal but the big surprise to me. this was not plantation slavery. mrs. thornton had a guy who, a servant who she owned, a man named george plant and he was her driver and kind of the jack of all trades who kept the house up and fixed the wagons and did that. eorge plant had a wife who was free. she lived in georgetown and he had four kids and they were free. and he would go home at night. and in the morning -- so he was a slave who commuted. but that was -- i mean, that was one of the variations of slavery in washington at that time. so a lot of slaves made money by their -- their owners would
8:46 am
hire them out. your owner would say, ok, you will be hired out to the owner of a hotel. you would be a georgetown and h had four kids and they were free. and he would go home at night. and in the morning -- so he was a waiter. the owner of the hotel would your owner your wages. so -- but you were there, you're a waiter you could make tips. you controlled your own time. so slavery was a much more fluid thing in washington. that's one reason why the anti-slavery movement could get going, was because there was more room to operate. and this was one of the things that key was most upset about was that this freedom, these little corners of freedom that the blacks were finding, everybody understood that was going to be the total -- that was the going to be the foot in the door to greater freedom and that was what they were trying to repress. so like i said, this is when the real ideological struggle over slavery begins, when the slave powers determine to stamp out the anti-slavery forces and the avepbt slavery forces are beginning to organize themselves, appeal to punl opinion, gain strength in the congress. and that's the fight that
8:47 am
grinds on and eventually culminates in the civil war 25 years later. your owner your >> to build on that. your commuter slaste, for lack of a better term. would that be more like anen tuntrd slave, would they be able to buy their freedom at >> no. >> they had some earning potential? >> no. that would still be up to the owner. -- but there were conditions like that. snow, for -- i have never quite figured this out. but he had a term sort of written into his terms of slavery that he would be free when he was 30. so when he was 30 he bought his freedom for $5. but that was something that had been recognized that he was due and that was legally his due. there were white indentrd servants although that was dying out by the 1830s. but how black people got their
8:48 am
freedom, it happened all different ways. sometimes it was given to you, sometimes when people died they freed all their slives. -- slaves. sometimes they said the slaves would have to pay the going rate. for a healthy young person that could be $800, $10urks, which was a lot of -- 1,000. that was a lot of money. you could live for a couple years on $1,000. but there were lots of permutations of slavery in washington. lots of race mixing, too. it's amazing to think about but there's no doubt about it racially was a more integrated city in 1835 than it is in 2012. there were no black neighborhoods in washington in 1835. blacks and whites lived very much intermingled. there were black blocks and things like that but there was no, oh, that's a black
8:49 am
neighborhood. that did not exist at racially integrated city in 1835 than it is in that time. >> do you know the degree of black literacy at this time? >> it's very hard to tell. john cook was a free black man and he was like the smartest black guy in town. everybody agreed. and he was the teacher at the school and he had organized a little group for young black men which arthur bowen was part of. which was trying to teach them. you want to get out of slavery? here's how you do it. and he -- he had a school and william wormly who was the son of lynch wormly who owned the livery stable also had a school. so there was education. but like what percentage? i don't know. i mean, arthur bowen was very well -- was obviously literate if he could have written that poem. mrs. thornten had taught him to read and write. but how common that was, i
8:50 am
don't really know. it's very hard to say. but it was not unknown that black people were literate. even slaves. anybody else? sure. >> who was mrs. thornton in bed alone or who was she with? >> mrs. thornton -- so her so she lived her house with her own mother who had been a school who was very fond well. in fact, i think mrs. thornton's mother was probably the one who taught arthur how to read and write. in her bedroom that night was mrs. thornton her mother and then maria bowen was ana thornton's personal servant and slept in the same room as the two other women. that was unusual. diary and maria
8:51 am
together. and all of very dependent on other. and so they slept in the same i mean, that's all i know. >> and she's the one of course up and -- >> yeah. >> and said ok. >> yeah. >> will you tell us if mrs. the day after arthur came in with the axe? last night arthur came in with the axe? -- >> no. as her drive to save arthur, to -- to save arthur on accelerates, it all comes down to what thinks. convince him so she writes an 18-page letter, an 18-page hand wrin letter in which she describes the whole event.
8:52 am
i mean, second by second detail up to it and everything that followed. so you get a very -- you learn first-hand exactly what she saw and what had happened that night. >> and you had access to that letter? >> i found that letter in the pardon papers of the president. all requests for pardons, petitions to the president go file. in the petition file i ana thornton's letter appealing for the pardon of bowen. so yes the original hand wrin. it raise for you how fascinating stories are just sitting here underneath another piece of paper? >> i mean, after writing this book, many. many. i mean, i'm sure they're there. i'm sure they're there. and i think they could be very unexpected and surprising.
8:53 am
so i'm still looking for it so i can write another book. >> would that be one of the main lessons that you got from writing this book? or was there another one that you could tell us about? >> that was -- i mean, that was really the big one that, you know, the way history's taught it can be so misleading. d that the way -- the key is to get to the reality of how people lived. not the politics, the way traditionally construed but actually what was the day-to-day life of the people like. that's what i came away with. w the day-to-day life of the people like. that's what i came away with. well, thank you. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2015] captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption contents and accuracy. visit ncicap.org
8:54 am
>> the themes are really overlapping. and i think perot, he has a distinct personality that's different from trump. the select factor was not there the same way it attracts people to trump. people throw themselves at trump for his autograph. there's a personality that perot didn't have. but being outside of the republican party. the republican party's relationship with trump has been rocky this year. i wrote the story previous called can you tone it down on immigration? trump said we'll see. now he signed this plenl. but who knows what it's worth. it's a political document. we could see it this year what happened with perot, happens with trump.
8:55 am
trump is if anything unpredictable he could easily run as an independent regardless of the pledge. >> tonight. >> born in 1897, pope paul vi served from 1963 until his death in 1978. you're looking at scenes of his 1963 coronation ceremony. the final pope to be crowned in this manner. succeeding popes have been inaugurated rather than crowned. from 50 years ago, pope paul vi visits the united nations. he was the first pope to travel to the united states and the first to address the u.n. general assembly. >> never again one against the other. never again. never more. was it not principally for this purpose that the united

11 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on